National Book Awards capture our imagination

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The Man Booker Prize is the best known of all the literary prizes, but the winning titles have often been criticized for being too high brow.

The Specsavers National Book Awards on the other hand don’t seem to attract as much publicity, but it’s worth checking out the winners of the various categories as they probably represent more of what the average man (or reader) in the street likes to read.

The 2013 winners were announced in December. These included the Autobiography or Biography of the year, won by David Jason for his “David Jason: My Life”, the Magic FM Non-fiction Book of the Year: “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb, the Food & Drink Book of the Year: “Eat” by Nigel Slater and the National Book Tokens Children’s Book of the Year: “Demon Dentist” by David Walliams.

One book out of all the categories was chosen by a public vote as the Specsavers Book of the Year, which was announced on 26th December.

It is Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” I haven’t read the novel, but according to the publisher’s website, it is a story about “memory and magic and survival, about the power of stories and the darkness inside each of us.”

It has also been described as “a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable”.

I have read and enjoyed one of Gaiman’s previous novels, “Neverwhere”, which originally began life as an ‘urban fantasy’ series for BBC2 back in 1996 and is still popular.

Richard, a young businessman, whilst on his way for a date with his fiancée in London, comes across an injured girl, but she’s no ordinary girl.

In spite of his fiancée’s protests, he decides to help her and is immediately drawn into the world of ‘London Below’, a realm populated by Roman legionaries and medieval monks, as well as fictional and fantastical characters.

The girl, named Door, is being hunted by hired assassins and Richard is determined to protect her and help her find out why, but will he ever get back into his own world, “London Above”?

Born in the UK, Neil Gaiman now lives in Wisconsin, USA, and writes books for readers of all ages.

He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama. For more about Neil Gaiman and his books, go to www.neilgaiman.com.

An award that is possibly even less well known amongst the book-buying public, but deserves better, is the ‘Brilliant Book Award’.

This is an annual prize for the best work of fiction published in paperback voted for by Key Stage 3 pupils in secondary schools across Nottinghamshire, Nottingham City and Derbyshire and is sponsored by The Bookcase at Lowdham.

The 2013 winner is Paula Rawsthorne, described as ‘Nottingham’s favourite adopted scouser’ for her book “The truth about Celia Frost.”

It’s a story that follows the fortunes and friendships of a 14-year-old who spends her whole life feeling like a ‘freak’ as she suffers from a rare blood disorder, meaning that she could die from the slightest of cuts.

For more information and a list of previous winners, go to http://brilliantbookaward.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/